Jumbo-Visma ruled stage 8 of La Vuelta as their leaders tamed the brutal slopes up Xorret de Cati. Primoz Roglic sprinted to his 11th stage victory in the Spanish Grand Tour, ahead of Remco Evenepoel (Soudal Quick-Step) and Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates). Lenny Martinez (Groupama-FDJ) cracked on the final climb while Sepp Kuss stayed with the best GC contenders to take La Roja. The American climber is the first rider from the USA to lead a Grand Tour since Chris Horner won La Vuelta in 2013. The French wonderkid retains the white jersey as the best young rider in the race.
The peloton face two key stages ahead of the first rest day, starting with a spectacular run in to Xorret de Cati after summiting a brutal climb in the final kilometres: 3.9km at 11.4%. Who will succeed Julian Alaphilippe, winner in 2017?
De Gendt leads a hard battle for the break
Attackers are willing to try their luck with long range moves. The battle for the break is on from the start, and the first climb of the day, the cat-2 Alto de Vall d’Ebo (summit at km 28.8) is not enough to make the difference.
Thirty riders eventually make the break after more than 35 kilometres of battle. And Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Dstny) immediately attacks from this group to lead the way over the next two climbs, the cat-3 Puerto de Tollos (km 49.4) and the cat-2 Puerto de Benifallim (km 81.7).
Robert Gesink (Jumbo-Visma) collaborates with Groupama-FDJ to control the gap between 4 and 5 minutes. The main GC threats at the front are Cristian Rodriguez (Arkea Samsic, +4'01’’), Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious, +9'39’’) and Romain Bardet (DSM-Firmenich, +13'58’’).
Five chasers get back to De Gendt into the last 80 kilometres: Cristian Rodriguez, with Antonio Tiberi (Bahrain Victorious), Rui Costa (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty), Oier Lazkano (Movistar) and Javier Romo (Astana Qazaqstan). De Gendt is dropped.
The attackers get back together on the following ascent, the cat-2 Puerto de la Carrasqueta (km 110.2). Attacks keep flying while the peloton control the gap at around 3 minutes.
Kuss attacks, Roglic wins
Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious), Andreas Kron (Lotto Dstny), Rui Costa (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty) and Oier Lazkano (Movistar Team) lead the way towards the main climb of the day, the cat-1 ascent up Xorret de Cati. The chasers are caught and the gap is down to 35’’ at the bottom (7.2km to go).
Soudal Quick-Step up the ante and the attackers are caught with 5 kilometres to go. Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) attacks, Remco Evenepoel controls and eight riders summit the ascent together: Evenepoel, Roglic, Kuss, Vingegaard, Mas, Ayuso, Almeida and Soler.
The Belgian star opens up the sprint. But Roglic powers to his 11th La Vuelta stage win while Sepp Kuss conquers La Roja. Lenny Martinez loses 1’10’’ (13th) on the line.